Oregon sues Johnson & Johnson for secret buyback of bad Motrin

You know all the recalls Johnson Johnson has announced over the past year or so, mostly given to quality control issues in some of their plants? (Earning them several stern rebukes from the FDA?)

Well, it seems that even as they were recalling products left and right, the company also engaged in a “phantom recall”- hiring contractors to purchase up stock of Motrin varieties in shops and gas stations and the like- to avoid negative publicity incurred by announcing a recall. The state of Oregon is now suing the drugmaker for the deliberately deceptive tactics, after one of the contractors hired by the company blew the whistle on the operation:

“[Lynn Walther] told The Oregonian he was assigned to go into local stores, look for certain batch numbers, and buy the offending packets with a credit card provided by his employer… In the Motrin buys, he was told to keep his true purpose secret. On June 23, 2009, he faxed the instruction sheet to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy. The board released a copy to The Oregonian Wednesday.

It said: ‘You should simply ‘act’ like a regular customer when making these purchases. THERE MUST BE NO MENTION OF THIS BEING A RECALL OF THIS PRODUCT!'”

Well, that’s a bit… damning. Problems with the affected varieties of Motrin came to light in late 2008, and the buyback began in early 2009. No formal recall was announced until February of 2010. CEO of Johnson Johnson William Weldon copped to the “phantom recall” plan during congressional testimony he gave last September. Weldon testified that the company “firmly admits” the surreptitious actions were a “mistake [they] made.”

[OregonLive via Consumerist]